Welcome to the real world, ladies and gentlemen of the Green Party. It's the world that other political parties know all about; the one where your utterances and actions are subjected to public and media scrutiny.
The Herald's editorial this morning is about the Greens' expenditure of public money from its leaders' budget on signature collectors. The leader writer opines:
On the strength of its election result, the Green Party has been given a great deal more public money to spend at Parliament. It needs to be careful how it spends it. Taxpayers might be surprised to learn the party is spending $76,000 of its allowance to hire people to collect signatures on a petition for a referendum on asset sales. This is not a proper use of the money.The country pays for a Parliament that has been set up to resolve public issues and Parliament provides elected parties with funds to ensure they can research issues, question ministers and contribute to legislative debate.
Quite so; the Greens have seen a significant increase in their funding; clearly in the best traditions of socialism, they are trying to spread that money as widely as they can. That however is not the purpose of parliamentary funding.
Then the Herald gets to the heart of the issue (with our emphasis added):
The law provides a separate procedure for citizens outside Parliament to petition for referendums when they are so moved. The citizens' initiative, as it is called, is supposed to be exactly that. It is not a second chance saloon for those who have the privileges of Parliament.The Labour Party is also sponsoring the petition for a referendum against asset sales, with the Council of Trade Unions, Grey Power, Greenpeace and the Union of Student Associations, but the Greens have hired the equivalent of eight fulltime staff to collect signatures on the streets of Auckland.
We could not agree more. Citizen Initiated Referenda are just that; and opportunity for an individual to garner support for an issue. We think of Norm Withers, who drove a referendum in 1999 which sent a very strong message about the adequacy of sentences for violent crime. Norm Withers did the hard yards himself, with an army of volunteers. As you can see from the letter on this page of his website, he didn't rely on taxpayer funding to drive for the CIR that he initiated himself, prompted by a violent attack on his mother; he recruited volunteers; an unpaid army.
Norm Withers encapsulates the spirit of the CIR. These were never intended to be a vehicle for political parties, and whilst the Greens will doubtless argue that they are doing nothing illegal, we all know that politics is all about perception.
And in the last week, the public's perception of the Green Party may just have altered a little, thanks to the MSM and Gareth Morgan. The Greens are not a loose alliance of lovely but misguided people. They are at the far Left of the politcal spectrum, with strong links to established socialist, anarchist and activist groups who will do anything "for the cause".
They are also anti-democracy; read on:
In this case, of course, the country has had a referendum on the subject - at the last election. Opposition parties did even more than the Government to make the election a referendum on asset sales. Labour and the Greens put opposition to the sales uppermost in their campaigns. It was the main thrust of their advertising and they lost no opportunity to bring the issue into election debate.
Thanks to them, National now has an undeniable mandate. The Greens are wasting their time, as well as our money, trying to put the issue to a second test. Their effort can only undermine the system of citizens' initiative yet again by forcing another poll that the Government would safely ignore.
The Greens and Labour gave the asset sales debate their best shot in November. Between them, the Greens (14) and Labour (34) won 48 seats to National's 59. That is not good enough for them however. They now want to relitigate the election result, or as the Herald puts it, visit the "second chance saloon", and on our coin.